WINDHOEK - Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta has cautioned travellers that export permits for Ekipa also known, as ivory jewellery is still required. He said in response particularly for Namibians travelling to Kenya.
His comments come after a Spanish woman became the second foreigner in a week to be arrested at Kenya’s international airport for wearing an ivory bangle, the wildlife service said last week.
Spaniard Maria Pich-Aguilera, 50, was arrested last week and pleaded guilty, paying a fine of one million shillings (US$9,800) for illegal possession of ivory.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said in a statement she was “arrested at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with an ivory bangle”, while travelling from Nairobi to Tanzania’s financial capital Dar es Salaam.
She was only allowed to leave for Tanzania after she paid her fine.
Equally, a Frenchwoman was also arrested at the airport on her way from France to Mayotte for possession of an ivory bracelet. She pleaded guilty and also paid the one million shilling fine - the alternative is 12 months in prison.
“We noticed this new trend where ivory is smuggled through worked or processed bangles and we have increased surveillance,” said an investigator speaking on condition of anonymity.
Shifeta said he cannot respond to that specific case of a person arrested in Kenya because he does not have information as to the originality of the product.
Nonetheless, Shifeta said Namibia has the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) permission.
Namibia has permission to sell “Ekipa” souvenirs made from ivory and wood, after the European Union withdrew its 25 critical votes because it could reach a consensus amongst its member nations.
Some believe tourist souvenirs help drive the illegal trade in ivory.
A single piece of Ekipa ornament can sell for as much as N$15 000 ($1,000 USD) and each year there are over one million visitors to Namibia.
“However, export permits are still required. In the case of specimens acquired before the Convention, pre-convention certificates are also needed. Those documents are given by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism at our permit office only after the ministry has been satisfied that the specimens were legally obtained,” Shifeta explained.
He advised the public to first check the legality of the Ekipa in question with the ministry before even buying Ekipa and also to ensure that relevant permits or certificates are issued before traveling with such.
According to him, the ministry has made such announcement many times before for anyone in possession of such to come and register but no one has come forth up to now.
“At the moment, we do not have in our record a registered legally acquired Ekipa in our records. If there is a person claiming to have bought Ekipa in Namibia and it is not certified by MET then it is not in our records, meaning the possessor might have acquired that illegally,” Shifeta maintained.
At the Cites meeting in 2002, Botswana was given permission to sell 10 tonnes, Namibia; 20 tonnes, South Africa; 30 tonnes for a total of 60 tonnes of ivory (representing 7,684 slaughtered elephants).
A KWS official, also asking not to be named, said that trafficking included “ornamentals made out of ivory”.
“It may be legal in other countries but here it is not. That is why you always hear a call to stop ivory trade all over the world because any small or big demand anywhere pushes poachers to meet the demands.”
Global trade in elephant ivory has largely been outlawed since 1989, after the animal’s numbers plunged from millions in the mid-20th century.
The African Elephant Database estimates that by 2015, fewer than 415 000 of the giant mammals remained on the continent.
Thousands of conservationists and policymakers from more than 180 countries are currently meeting in Geneva to tighten rules on trade in elephant ivory and products from other endangered animal and plants.
The plight of African elephants is expected to dominate debate.
Some states are calling for the strongest possible level of protections for all African elephants, while countries in southern Africa, where populations have traditionally been better protected and healthier, are requesting the resumption of ivory stockpile sales.
2019-08-27 07:14:12 27 days ago